The old shopper's style of searching out antiques for your home decor has changed a bit over the years. The once daily outing to search for rustic furniture to compliment your home, whether it be the oddly shaped china hutch or the worn-in writers desk, has dropped off considerably due to economic strain and the closures of shops across the country. Not to mention lack of interest in pieces that are now falling to bits from years of usage. But where the generation of old has gone adrift, the generation of classic has made a comeback.
--- The Green Ant got its start over twelve years ago as a small upstairs section of Wasatch Furniture, selling items from the era of the American Boom, the 1950's and early 1960's. It quickly established itself as a Sugar House mainstay earning credibility for unique finds by word-of-mouth until the area was hit with redevelopment planning. Since then its moved to the former home of Red Light Books on the corner of Broadway and 2nd East where its found new popularity and demand from the downtown community and other businesses. I got a chance to chat with founder and owner Ron Green about starting up and sustaining over the years, plus a few thoughts on the community in general. All with some photos of what he currently has on display for you to check out over here.
Gavin: Hey Ron. First off, tell us a bit about yourself.
Ron: My name is Ron Green. My bulldog's name is Hana. I've been in SLC for sixteen years. Moved here from San Francisco. I was raised in Carmel,California. Got a two year degree at Monterey Penninsula College and a four year degree from the U of U.
Gavin: What first got you interested in furniture? And what made you pursue it as a business?
Ron: It all started in my early childhood; my mother took me to garage sales and thrift stores. I was raised in California so imagine I was influenced by what I saw around me. No particular memories though I did have an inflatable swag/hanging lamp as a kid. When I was in college I would buy used furniture and sell it to second hand dealers. I got my BA in Film Studies. During and after college I worked in the film industry as a camera assistant. In the winter of '97 film work got pretty scarce. I was doing all kinds of temp work to get by. In spring of '98 I asked myself what makes me happy in the working world? The answer I came up with was 50's furniture. So with $500 and an idea I started The Green Ant.
Gavin: How did you go about getting all the different types of furniture you'd end up displaying? And what made you choose to go more toward a 50's feel?
Ron: I really liked the shape of the 50's furniture when I started. I thought it was fun and interesting. Then I started reading about the stuff I loved and the designers that created it. As for selling/displaying I knew I didn't want it to be kitsch. I really liked the designs that were truly modern in their time.
Gavin: I read when you first started in 1998, you started as a store within another furniture store.
Ron: Ya, before I started I would sell stuff to Circa, an upscale used store on State Street. Next door was Wasatch Furniture who also bought used furniture. I got to know Lou, the owner of Wasatch, pretty well and he offered me the upstairs side area when I told him I wanted to start a shop. At the time I thought if I could ride the coat tails so to speak of a used furniture shop I'd have a better chance of survival the first year.
Gavin: What was it like for you guys being open during that first year?
Ron: The first year was kind of funny. I bought a lot of stuff from the Deseret Industries and garage sales. I sold a ton of sofas back then. I could spend all my mornings looking for stuff and then be open 11-6. It really was word of mouth back then because I was upstairs. It was the hip college aged kids that really kept my business going. That's why even today I keep some cool but cheaper pieces in the shop and some knock-offs; I know there's a lot of kids who want an Eames lounge and ottoman but can't afford to drop $3000. Never forget your roots!
Gavin: Eventually you moved out and got your own storefront. What made you choose Sugar House, and how did you come across the spot on 11th East?
Ron: I loved the feel of Sugar House back then. The idea of all these independent shops next to each other helping each other out. I started looking around for shop space and met Barbara over at Smith-Crown. She showed me a space that was going to be renovated. Though at the time there was a two story house in front of it and the shop only had an old roll up garage door. No front at all. But she showed me the architectural plans and I was sold.
Gavin: How was it for you establishing yourselves in the area? And what was it like being around there during a period where there was uncertainty over what would become of the area?
Ron: Back then I didn't feel the uncertainty of the area. Not until Craig Meecham tore it all down.
Gavin: What eventually made you decide to leave after being there for ten years?
Ron: I've always loved Broadway. And I really liked watching it evolve. I knew I wanted to be somewhere downtown where people walked around. I used to live in S.F. and I loved walking up and down Valencia street in the Mission District. I just really liked the feel of a small business district there. No Starbucks, no major stores at all. Just people doing what they loved, their way in their shops. I get that feeling on Broadway.
Gavin: How did you come across the space on Broadway and what made you decide to move in?
Ron: I remember the space when it was the china shop. I never went in but thought it was a big space. Then they left and it became three separate spaces: Kayo Gallery, Frosty Darling and Red Light. A few months after Red Light closed up I stopped by to check out the space. What a disaster! I had a couple of friends check it out that do renovations. That's when I decided it could look really cool but would take some cash and trade! It wasn't until I saw the first two drop ceilings on the floor in a pile of ruble at my feet that I knew I was committed to Broadway!
Gavin: What was it like for you reestablishing yourself in an area that's been growing the past couple of years with the art and music communities?
Ron: Reestablishing was easy. I told all my regulars where I was going and found new customers roaming around on Broadway.
Gavin: You've expanded beyond the classic furniture to also bring in more modern looking pieces. How have shoppers reacted to the variety you've now presented?
Ron: I just like to bring in stuff I like.
Gavin: What brought on the decision to bring on Misc. for the back area? And how has that partnership worked out for both of you?
Ron: Well... Missy and I had I had been dating about eight months when she got laid off from her job. She was with me in the shop the day after I signed the lease; unemployed. She use to own The Bag Lady, a used clothing store, a few years ago. So I pointed out that the space had a side door and said if you want to start a shop again you can have the back of this space. The rest is Misc. (Pronounced mis-sy) history.
Gavin: Are there any plans for you to expand beyond what you're doing now or are you mainly sticking to the single shop and the inventory?
Ron: Expansion? I get asked that quite a lot actually. Ummm... no. I like being a small business. I have no desire to be a millionaire nor will this business make me one!
Gavin: Going local for a bit, what's your take on the local art scene, both good and bad? And is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Ron: The local art scene is very cool. So is the local music scene. The hard part is that Utah as a whole is not great on buying art in my opinion. If you walk into my home, 80% of the artwork on my walls is local. My thoughts??? SUPPORT LOCAL ART, BUY SOME!
Gavin: Being a part of the downtown area, what are your thoughts on surviving as a local business right now?
Ron: Survival. Adapt and find a second way to make an income. Don't rely on one source of income! Know your customers and learn to be flexible. And once again, spend locally!
Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to better the situation these days?
Ron: My theory is I try to spend my money with local companies first. I try to shop in smaller businesses because they are the backbone of our community as well as our country. Without them this country wouldn't be what it is. And NO, I don't shop at Walmart!
Gavin: Are there any local shops you enjoy working with or shopping from?
Ron: Absolutely! Elemente, Now & Again, Judy's on 3rd, Emily Jane, Second Hand Chic, and Retro Rose I work with them a bit. I like buying art at Kayo Gallery. Light Spot for amazing designed furniture (I have a chair on lay-a-way, thanks Walt!). Ken Sanders for books. Coffee Garden, NoBrow, Cafe On First, Cafe Espresso and Java Joe's is where I spread my coffee cash around. And when I make lattes at home the beans are from Ibis in Logan and the milks from Winder dairy. And I get my lunch at The Broadway Market or Gourmandies usually.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourself and the shop going into this next year?
Ron: From me? Hopefully a vacation! Seriously, I hope I can get a sign up on the marquee! I've been slacking on that one!
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Ron: Plug and promote? Sure I'll let the readers research them though... SLModern, Grass Roots Modern, Dooce.com, Eva Restaurant, Slowtrain, Takashi, City Pet Club, Misc., Kiva, The Garage and The Sharing Place. One last thought: You are who you are and you are where you are in life; embrace it!
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